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Eight Tips for Sound Infield Defense

There are many habits infielders can practice in order to become more consistent defensive players, according to Penn State University Head Baseball Coach Rob Cooper.

Starting by reinforcing good habits on the approach to routine groundballs can reduce errors.      

Speaking about infield defense at the Joe Maddon and Friends Coaching the Coaches Clinic in Hazleton, Pennsylvania in December, Cooper shared eight tips with youth, high school and college baseball and softball coaches.

Proper stance             

Cooper said if players start with bad positioning of their feet, it hampers their approach to a groundball.

“I want our guys to have their feet spread out so they’re in a good athletic stance,” Cooper said. “The closer they are together, they’re not as athletic. If they’re too far apart, they can’t move very well.” 

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Field in front               

Picturing the extended glove hand and two feet as a triangle, Cooper said players should work on fielding the ball out in front of their body.           

When groundballs get too close to the player’s body, Cooper said, there is a better chance of them losing sight of the ball, leading to misplays.         

“Get low, get your eyes down on the baseball and play it at the top of the triangle,” he said. “We don’t want it to get deep.”

Left of center               

Right-handed players, with gloves on their left hand, should field the ball slightly left of the center of their body whenever possible.        

“I want my hand and arm relaxed,” Cooper said. “I’m freer with my hands. I’m freer with my body.        

“You lose flexibility and lose range as you reach across your body.”

One hand is enough          

Well-meaning coaches often try to teach players to use both hands, but in a point reinforced by Maddon, the Chicago Cubs manager, players “have to be able to field the ball with one hand,” he said.        

“Our daddies were wrong. It’s a one-handed game,” Maddon said.       

Cooper said the other hand comes into play in the transition to throwing the ball, which can be handled more smoothly if the throwing hand is not part of the catch.

Relaxed hands           

Cooper tells his players to think about playing from the wrist down with relaxed hands.                

“A good infielder plays with the hands,” Cooper said.         

Having fingers relaxed and facing down leaves the surface of the glove open to the ball.

Through the ball

Cooper wants infielders to play through the ball.                

“If the ball takes a bad hop on you and you have to play back on it, that’s one thing,” he said.       

The concept of having soft hands leaves some infielders with the misconception of playing back all the time and handling the ball gently, letting it come to them.           

“Don’t pull back,” Cooper said. “Don’t pull the glove surface away from the ball.Play through the ball.”

Don’t stand up               

Fielding and throwing should feel connected.   

Once the ball is fielded, “we want to stay away from standing straight up,” Cooper said. “Shuffle into a power position” for throwing.        

“What you see too often is guys go to the ball and stop,” he said. “You want the sensation of playing through it. It’s almost one continuous motion.”

Drills               

Drills should be designed to reinforce the needed habits.             

Cooper explained some drills he uses.

One hand: Fielders can place the thumb of their throwing hand in their belt to keep it out of play, reinforcing proper technique with their glove hand while fielding routine grounders. 

No hands: Players keep both hands behind their back while groundballs are rolled through their legs. The player moves his feet to adjust so the ball is passing through just left of center.

From GameChanger and Tom Robinson. 

Baseball

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